Nursing literature indicates that patient teaching is an integral role function of the nurse. While some authors suggest that patient teaching is an essential part of nursing care, others argue that nurses are not adequately prepared to assume the role of teacher. This study explores the context within which nurses engage in patient teaching, revealing tensions experienced on a day to day basis within the practice setting. The principles of teaching and learning are also explored, raising questions about the extent to which nurses utilize these principles to guide the teaching moment. It is asserted that nurses find it difficult to engage in activities which are pivotal to the provision of quality patient education. Whether this is because they have little awareness or understanding of the principles of education, or whether this is related to the milieu in which teaching takes place, is explored.